Potential of renewable energy

Ohidul Alam | Published: January 19, 2016 22:21:01 | Updated: October 21, 2017 17:41:45

Densely populated, Bangladesh's industrial and urban expansion is taking place rapidly but haphazardly. The ultimate result of this is the demand for large volume of energy every day. Unfortunately, it is not easy for the government to meet the ever growing energy needs with its limited resources and capacity. This problem is triggered by lack of sufficient financial support and technology. On the other hand, the prime raw materials for electricity production are natural gas, coal and petroleum. 
On an average, access to electricity for the people of Bangladesh is 59.60 per cent. In urban areas, it is 90 per cent, but in rural areas it is only 42 per cent. The country's installed power generation capacity (December, 2015) has increased to 12,071 MW, a maximum output delivered is 6,775 MW. Still, load-shedding is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh which hampers all development and economic activities. But modern urban life and industrial operation mainly depend on electricity supply. Besides, shortage of electricity and its unequal distribution encourage rural people to migrate to urban areas.
All developed and industrialised countries are self-dependent in energy supply but to achieve sustainability and reduce adverse environmental impacts from conventional energy sources, they are giving emphasis on renewable energy sources, viz., biomass, waste, solar power, wind power, and tidal power etc. In European countries, renewable energy contributes from 5 to 27 per cent of total energy supply. On the contrary, in China wastes-to-energy contributes one per cent and other renewable energy nine per cent to the total national energy supply. Similarly, renewable energy contributes 10 to 13 per cent in the United States and 10 per cent to Japan's electricity supply. 
Bangladesh also generates a gigantic volume of wastes every day, most of which are illegally disposed of by dumping without any energy recovery and pollution control system. The total municipal solid wastes of Bangladesh are about 19,000 tons/day, but with the available facilities it is a tough task to handle such a large volume of waste timely. Inversely, these wastes have high heating value (HHV) ranging from 3 to 5 MJ/kg. However, only thermal treatment along with energy recovery such as, incineration, pyrolysis and gasification can dispose of such large quantity of wastes. But till now there is no incineration or pyrolysis plant in Bangladesh to recover energy from solid wastes. Consequently, a great opportunity is missing out due to financial and technical problems. If appropriate steps are adopted to convert wastes to energy,  4,000 MW electricity can be generated by using the wastes. 
The government introduced a scheme known as solar home systems (SHS) to provide electricity to rural households with no grid access. Consequently, use of solar energy in the rural areas is increasing rapidly. The programme reached 3.0 million households by 2014. The World Bank called it "the fastest growing SHS programme in the world." There are many private companies too which are supplying solar panels to households in rural areas. 
In this way, partial electricity demand is fulfilled in the rural areas but it is far from meeting the required energy demands. Besides, in some cases, poor quality of solar panels is discouraging the people to install the device and the extreme poor people are unable to buy it. Therefore, the government should come forward to monitor solar panel quality as well as provide financial support to the poor. 
In developed or industrialised countries, wind energy is also popular. Bangladesh is also giving importance to wind energy. The country's largest wind power plant is located at Kutubdia. The southern part of Bangladesh, especially the coastal area, is suitable for wind power. Lately, several non-government organisations (NGO) installed many small-scale wind power plants in the coastal belts. 
Renewable energy is the best solution to the current energy crisis of Bangladesh. Energy from different sources such as, biomass, solar and wind etc.; can be substitutes for conventional energy for Bangladesh. Financial and technological support by the government and international donors can help in harnessing energy from all such sources. 
The writes is a student of Environmental Engineering in UNEP-Tongji Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development (IESD. ohid776@gmail.com

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